RISMEDIA, Nov. 6, 2007-With holiday travel just around the corner, it’s never too soon to start thinking about pet arrangements, especially with the increasing cost of airfare, gas prices, etc. But it’s something that all pet owners must come to terms with whether you’re heading on vacation, a work trip, experiencing illness and so forth. Finding the right pet-sitter is crucial to keeping your pet(s) happy when you are away from home.
10 Steps to Finding a Pet Sitter
1. Ask friends, neighbors and family for suggestions. Sometimes a reliable and trustworthy sitter is right under your nose in the form of next door’s teens or the retired couple across the street. What better people than those you already know, trust and are close to your home? You can also ask them to keep an eye on things for you if you are lucky enough to get such people.
2. Local Pet-Groomers are a great source of information! Don’t be afraid to approach them, even if you don’t frequent their shop.
3. Follow up recommendations. If you don’t get someone from your immediate circle but they provide you with suggestions, follow these up. People’s recommendations by word-of-mouth are a very good indication that the pet-sitter they are familiar with is good. If no one has any suggestions, use the telephone directory, Internet advertising sites (for example, Craig’s List, a regular online bulletin board on a local pet’s page) or post messages in your local stores seeking someone. Another possible source of help is your local veterinarian or a local pet club.
4. Interview your potential pet-sitter with an eye to watching their interaction with your pet(s). Observe what a potential sitter does upon first entering your home. The potential sitter’s interaction with your pet at the ‘interview’ meeting is very important. Watch to see if he or she pets your dog, ignores your cat or scowls at your budgie. These first reactions can be a vital sign to you as to how they will treat your pet while you are away.
5. Ask questions. You deserve to know the level of expertise and enthusiasm of your pet-sitter. Some questions include:
- Have you done pet-sitting before? For what type of pets? Do you have other pets you are currently sitting?
- Do you have a set time for visiting pets that you care for? (You need to know that they intend to be regular, punctual and spend some time attending to your pet, especially for such pets as cats and dogs who will require walking time, playtime and general “keeping company” time to stave off loneliness etc.)
- Do you understand the dietary requirements of my pet(s)? (If not, ascertain how diligent the sitter is about following written instructions.)
6. Ask for references. Contact, or meet if possible their references!
7. Quiz your potential sitter on other pet-sitting stints. Ask her or him for telephone numbers or e-mails if possible, you can contact these references and double-check on the services.
8. Observe your pet’s reactions. After the sitter leaves, is your pet happy? Agitated? Angry? Calm? Skittish? This will be more obvious for some pets than others but if you know your pet well, you will likely see any relevant signs.
9. Test your own feelings. Did you gel with the sitter? Did you get feelings that you could trust this person with your pet and that the person came across as responsible and animal-loving? Trust your instincts. If you are not pleased with what you saw or you feel uncomfortable, keep looking.
10. Agree on a fair price. This is not the time to haggle – be aware of what the going rate is for pet-sitting in your area and be prepared to pay it. Some pet sitters may charge more for quality care. It is more important to get good care for your pet(s) than to be seeking a bargain. In return, you can demand written confirmation of obligations the pet-sitter must meet. And yes, this includes neighbors and friends sitting for you. They are doing you more than a big favor – they are caring for a precious member of your family.
Other helpful hints:
If you have a cleaner, don’t be afraid to ask if he or she might be interested in some side work taking care of your pet while you are away. Some cleaners are more than happy to supplement their income doing this and they are usually already familiar with your pet(s) and know the home well. For some people, this is a great way to maintain continuity for the pet.
It may help to prepare a daily checklist of tasks that the pet-sitter can check off each visit. This is especially useful if medications, special dietary requirements or an exercise schedule is involved. It not only reassures you but is an easy way to remind the pet-sitter of the exact tasks at hand.
It is helpful to reassure a potential pet-sitter that any out-of-pocket expenses such as vet fees, additional food, litter tray replacements etc. will be covered by you on presentation of receipts. You may wish to leave a small amount of cash for this purpose but link its expenditure to the presentation of receipts.
Many pet-sitters will require full or part-payment in advance depending on their experience level. Never pay the full amount in advance if you aren’t comfortable for obvious reasons but do not begrudge a partial payment upfront as a measure of good faith. Again, check their references! You don’t want to miss out on the best possible care for your pet(s).
Many excellent, experienced pet sitters have been deceived by folks who partially pay in advance, but later refuse to pay the balance. These sitters may require full payment up front.
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